The largest Muslim civil liberties group in the United States on Wednesday condemned Newt Gingrich for saying he would only hire Muslims to his administration if they renounced the use of Islam's Shariah law as a tool for U.S. government.
Calling Gingrich "one of the nation's worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry," the Council of American Islamic Relations suggested the Republican presidential candidate is a segregationist.
"Newt Gingrich's vision of America segregates our citizens by faith. His outdated political ideas look backward to a time when Catholics and Jews were vilified and their faiths called a threat," said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Sayolor in a statement.
"The time for bias in American politics has passed and Newt Gingrich looks like a relic of an ugly era," Sayolor said.
CAIR said the release was prompted by the candidate's remarks Tuesday in Columbia when, asked if he would ever endorse a Muslim running for president.
"It would depend entirely on whether they would commit in public to give up Shariah," Gingrich said.
"A truly modern person who happened to worship Allah would not be a threat, a person who belonged to any kind of belief in Shariah, any effort to impose it on the rest of us, would be a mortal threat," Gingrich told the crowd, adding that he's "totally opposed" to Shariah law being applied in American courts and favors a federal law that "preempts" its use.
This month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Oklahoma ban on the application of "Sharia law" and "international law" in courts.
Pointing to the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, CAIR defends Shariah law as a set of beliefs that "teaches marital fidelity, generous charity and a thirst for knowledge," and mandates that Muslims respect the law of the land in which they live.
Gingrich had a different interpretation of Shariah law, pointing to the, "rising Islamization of Turkey has been accompanied by a 1,400 percent increase in women being killed."
"When you look at the application of Shariah in places like Iran, when you look at churches being burned in Nigeria and Egypt, and that the decline of Christians in Iraq from a million, 200 thousand when the Americans arrived to about 500,000 today, I think it depends entirely on the person," he said.
"If they are a modern person integrated in the modern world and they are prepared to recognize all religions, that's one thing. On the other hand, if they're Saudis, who demand that we respect them while they refuse to allow Christians to worship in Saudi Arabia, that's something different," he continued.
Later in the day during a question and answer session in Aiken, S.C., Gingrich also called the Ground Zero mosque "a deliberate and willful insult to the people of the United States who suffered an attack by people who are motivated by the same thing."
"I think the time has come for us to have an honest conversation about Islamic radicalism. I don't think we should be intimidated by our political elites, and I don't think we should be intimidated by universities who have been accepting money from the Saudis and who, therefore, now have people who are apologists for the very people who want to kill us," he said.